It was all laughs at the start of August when Newcastle was scheduled to kick their season off by facing newly-promoted Nottingham Forest in the first game of the season. It was all laughs after the game, too, with the Magpies bagging their first three points of the campaign after putting a couple of goals past the Forest keeper and conceding none against the Tricky Trees.
Not bad for a start. Too bad for a start, though. What came after that, I mean.
Somehow, Eddie Howe and the lads escaped Falmer Stadium in the second week of play having—not quite—earned one point against Brighton in a no-goals draw. Then, a massive six-goal affair with Manchester City brought emotions to the table and allowed the Geordie Faithful to start dreaming again.
After that, though, things have looked rather murky for the Magpies. Wolves were a beatable team... and it took a last-gasp effort by Allan Saint-Maximin to extract a measly point. Liverpool got the benefit of a 17-minute extra time to defeat Newcastle, but hey, they did so and that was it. Crystal Palace went away with a dubious VAR decision but that ended in another draw with no goals scored for Newcastle. And lastly, Bournemouth also they halted the Geordies limiting them to another draw.
If pundits joke about Newcastle U-draw-ted, well, it’s because that is exactly the reality of the team these days. Eight goals in favor and seven goals against tells you all you need to know. One win in seven games is another telling piece of information. Two-and-two ties sandwich that loss against Liverpool is more of the same.
Something has to change. Will Fulham help? No, sir.
Of course, Fulham got promoted from the Championship a season ago, and look what the Mighty Magpies did to fellow-promoted Forest, right? Wrong. Forest is sitting 19th in the table only because Brendan Rodgers is in charge of a Premier League team. Fulham is the sixth-best team in the division entering Saturday’s game. Tiny little difference, that one.
On top of everything, Newcastle is traveling to London with a contingent of players that, if we’re 100% honest and from our outsider position of covering the team from our comfy chairs, we don’t even know who and who does not include.
Is Bruno truly fit and ready to play after getting home earlier from the Brazilian training camp? Has ASM recovered from his injury, same as Callum Wilson, during the international break? How are Chris Wood’s ribs, or Alexander Isak’s hammy? Is Nick Pope in the right mental place after helping England get relegated to the second level of the Nations League earlier this week? Too. Much. Trouble.
At least Eddie has said that he’s focused on Newcastle and that he doesn’t give too much of a damn to the whispers out there putting him in place of Gareth Southgate, I guess. That better be the case, because it’ll take more than an effort—and some injury luck—for the Magpies to start churning out results and earning more points than their current (and paltry) eight-point tally over seven games played.
By the time Saturday comes to a close later today, results might have Newcastle sitting sixth in the table pending Sunday games. That is, of course, assuming the Magpies can edge a team that no more than five months ago was still playing the likes of Millwall, Blackpool, and Peterborough... and conceding four to second-tier Sheffield United in the last game of their season.
Can Newcastle win one game these days, though? At this point and as sad as it sounds, it is hard to give a positive answer to that.
FotMob.com best guess at the upcoming Starting XIs from the Cottagers and the Magpies is in, so let’s go through it.
- Not Available: Isak (hamstring), Shelvey (thigh), Darlow (ankle), Krafth (knee), Wood (rib), Ritchie (knock)
- Doubtful: Saint-Maximin (hamstring), Bruno (hamstring), Wilson (hamstring), Anderson (knock)
- No-brainer. Nick Pope will man the goalposts and unless he gets us relegated (can’t rule that out given the recent developments involving the keeper) he will keep doing so.
- This is really not a game to gamble or do something weird. It’s Fulham, at the end of the day. No need for experiments, no need for tests, and no need for random stuff to try here when it comes to the most solid line in the whole squad so far.
- The left side will be in possession of Matt Targett, who finally got to play the full 90 minutes against Bournemouth for the first time since Aug. 31. On the right, Kieran Trippier will retain his starting gig with no real competition for him at the position. We can all agree ASM has been the best Magpie to date, but all things considered and looking at Trippier’s larger availability (he’s played all possible 630 minutes compared to ASM’s 342) I think we can all agree about Trips actually being the most deciding factor of Newcastle’s success (?) in the early season.
- Fabian Schar, whether it’s for the good or for the bad, seems to be one of the surest bets when it comes to naming the weekly starting XI of the Magpies. Yes, I know, there is this whole left-foot/right-foot pairing debate, and Schar is the only CB in possession of a golden right, but even then it’s rather impressive how highly considered he is for Howe and the rest of the coaching staff.
- That leaves one spot open in the lineup every weekend, the one pertaining to the second, left-footed CB. As always, the contenders are two lads who arrived in Tyneside during this calendar year. This game, though, calls for the experience and Hummer-like Dan Burn. I love Sven Botman like I love my mother, but there is this guy at the other end and playing forward for Fulham that scares me to death. He’s called Mitrovic, or something like that. You might have heard of him. Not saying Botman can’t deal with him and better cats, but Burn is a rugged vet with enough chops to tame the Serbian beast. Full trust.
- Brazil non-international Joelinton is the only sure thing in the middle of the park this Saturday. He’s fit, he’s played every single available minute, has yet to be subbed off a game, and has an assist to his name just to put the cherry on top of it all. He might not be the ultimate destroyer/playmaker but he can do a little bit of everything from defending to arriving in the opposition’s area as part of the second wave, so he’ll be there.
- I think the availability of Bruno is totally up in the air unless Howe is blatantly lying to all of us or the news coming out of Brazil’s camp are plain wrong. I don’t know. Feels like a last-minute call for Howe to make and in any other reasonable world and scenario, Bruno would sit this out or at least only come into the pitch as a second-half substitute. Because it’s Fulham. But it also is Newcastle, which means that there are no guarantees here about dominating a team that just got promoted from the Championship. Howe won’t be strong enough to resist the urge and allure of playing Bruno, and Bruno will start this one.
- Lots of varying opinions (now and in the past) about who should be the third option in the midfield of Newcastle’s formation between Joe Willock, Sean Longstaff, and Elliot Anderson. Critics say Willock is underperforming, which I don’t entirely disagree with—that said, he is still 23 and in my humble opinion has tons of potential inside of him; give the kid a break. We all know Sean Longstaff is Costco Midfielder and a kinda-reliable-yet-very-boring option. Elliot Anderson is probably the total opposite to Longstaff in that regard (the excitement of a brand new toy!) but he’s obviously the greenest of lads. See, it is so frustrating to pick one of the three because all offer different things, and against a low-level team such as Fulham should be considered, deploying Anderson (for example) would make sense. But again, Newcastle hasn’t played any better than all clubs not named either Leicester or Nott Forest, so there’s that. Give me Willock because starting Anderson feels too gaudy for Howe to stomach, and Longstaff doesn’t offer a wide repertoire pushing forward.
- There have been a few locks into Newcastle/Howe’s weekly lineups considering the injuries of the early season: Pope (perfectly perfect), Schar (reasonable), Trippier (obvious), and Miguel Almirón. There is absolutely nothing moving Almirón off the pitch. Nothing. Almirón could hit a thousand vulcanos sitting on top of multilayered chainsaws tied to rocket-powered spaceships and he would stay in the starting XI. Should he? That’s debatable, although just entertaining the thought of benching Miggy feels like blasphemy to some long-time Geordies out there. Almirón is an MLS All-Star but a Premier League Non-Star. I love the guy because he gives it all, but the production is just a little under. If ASM doesn’t play, I wouldn’t mind dropping Miggy to the bench and starting Fraser and the French. That won’t happen because Howe’s heart belongs to the Paraguayan.
- It’s been so long since we saw Allan Saint-Maximin on a pitch that I had nearly forgotten about him! I am relieved, though, because he’s already trying and training new dribbling moves on his home so he should be ready to go today. Newcastle needs ASM. ASM needs Newcastle. Match made in heaven even if it’s risky because, well, it’s been a month-plus recovery period but if this man goes down again or suffers any kind of setback the Magpies will be delightfully screwed up—more than they already are, I mean.
- Finally, Callum Wilson might play football after nearly spending a month and a half on the shelves. The last time CW played he did so against Manchester City and scored his second goal of the season. Two goals in three games, that one made it, and things were looking great. But Wilson is so frustrating to have in the squad because as much as you want him out there performing and enjoying games, he just doesn’t know how to stay fit and keep injuries at bay. Wilson is fit and will start this one (because who else would?). Enjoy it while it lasts and doesn’t take it for granted; we can’t switch injuries off in real life.
CHN Predicted Lineup
DEF Trippier - Schar - Burn - Targett
MID Willock - Bruno - Joelinton
WNG Almirón - Saint-Maximin
How we line-up at Craven Cottage this afternoon.— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) October 1, 2022
HWTL! ⚫️⚪️ pic.twitter.com/pFnm5S09DB
Fulham vs. Newcastle
- Date: Saturday, October 1st
- Kick-off: 15:00 BST / 10:00 EST / 8:00 PST
- Location: Craven Cottage, London (England)
- TV: Talksport 2 Radio UK (UK), Peacock (USA), fuboTV (Canada)
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Howay the Lads!